DECISIONS will be made by real people rather than faceless bureaucrats if the North-East votes for an elected regional assembly, Yes campaigners said yesterday.

Darlington MP Alan Milburn and North-East businessman Sir John Hall urged people to back the proposed new system in the forthcoming referendum.

They were in Darlington town centre to highlight decision-making powers the new body would have.

Mr Milburn said it would be able to directly shape policies on transport, housing and regeneration instead of unelected officials in London.

He said: "This is one of the biggest decisions facing the North-East - it has the choice to have civil servants in Whitehall making the decisions or the people of the region.

"I hope people of the region will vote 'Yes' because it is the way to decide the future of the North-East.

"It will have the power to decide on free bus passes for pensioners and bring full employment back to this part of the world.

"We want to see affordable housing for people in the region and effective transport system."

Former Newcastle United chairman Sir John Hall said the assembly would not be a waste of taxpayers' money, as said by No campaigners.

He said it would mean people would have more of a say in how money is invested in projects across the region.

Sir John said: "We have got the opportunity to vote on an assembly that will have power and we have got to use this vote effectively.

"At the minute, One North-East is unelected and, although they do a great job, they are responsible for using money that affects the lives of people in the region, yet they are not accountable to us.

"It can make a difference and this is going to decide the future of the region."

Meanwhile, No campaigners reacted with fury yesterday to a Yes campaign press release that claimed North-East Says No was supported by "businessmen who do not have the best interests of the region at heart".

The statement was included in a note circulated to journalists ahead of yesterday's photo opportunity with Alan Milburn and Sir John Hall.

North-East Says No described the statement as an outrageous slur and accused the Yes camp of gutter politics.

Leading No supporter Ian Dormer, director of Newcastle-based Rosh Engineering and a director of North-East Says No, said: "This is one of the most disgraceful attacks I have seen in politics and it is a shame the Yes campaign has been so unpleasant."